I was on the highway when I first heard of Newtown, Connecticut's indescribable horror. My radio was set to NPR, so I listened to a series of soft reportorial voices gently setting the small-town scene: emotional paralysis, mostly--an incomprehension too vast to confront, thus a local diner had changed its roadsign from menu to "Say a prayer." When all else fails ...
I got home, too tired to read, so I turned on cable news and watched its undifferentiated coverage for maybe three hours. Some news, law enforcement press conferences, distressed politicians, platitudinous psychologists, profilers, book authors, lots of host outrage. When all else fails ...
This morning I sought fresh guidance in print. What I found was ... well, let's go with the NY Times' Charles Blow, since his is as representative and, let's face it, as paradigmatic as any. He begins:
Another day, another mass shooting in America. When, and how, will this end? In fact, will it ever end?
He goes on, warily, to quote President Obama, who, full of sadness but void of power, said yesterday: "We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."
Then comes a quoted statement from some insane pro-gun outfit, this time the Gun Owners of America, whose executive director accuses anti-gun sanity of having "the blood of little children on [its] hands."
Blow's column does of course contain a conclusion--the eternal beseeching of spineless politicians to demonstrate courage against the gun lobby, which they would indeed demonstrate, if they weren't spineless--but his theme is located about midway: "Outrageous. This is a sad, sad state of affairs."
When all else fails. We always have the Post-Mass Slaughter Response, from petitions to the indifferent heavens to furious columns and cable coverage to on/off-switching politicians to impassioned special-interest groups whose fundraisers really start strutting their stuff and earning their commissions and paychecks.
There now remains only Post-Mass Slaughter Response #2, which is much less complicated but every bit as repetitive: silence. Until, that is, it's time to replay Post-Mass Slaughter Response #1.